Nova Scotia land surveyors stand against privatization of land registry

Nova Scotia land surveyors want to drive a stake through the potential privatization of the province's land registry — one of three provincial registries under consideration for outsourcing by the McNeil government.

Land registry is one of three registries being considered for outsourcing

Jody Isenor, president of the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors, says privatizing the land registry is bad idea - based on experiences in other provinces. (CBC)

Nova Scotia land surveyors want to drive a stake through a potential privatization of the Nova Scotia government's land registry — one of three provincial registries under consideration for outsourcing by the McNeil government.

"The land registry for us is a very, very big deal," said Jody Isenor, president of the N.S. Land Surveyor's Association.

The Liberal government is reviewing privatizing Nova Scotia's motor vehicle, business and land registries.

In a presentation to interested vendors this week, Service Nova Scotia CEO Joanne Munro said, "We think such a partnership can help us deliver programs and services in a more efficient, effective and sustainable manner."

According to the presentation, government must see specific benefits: cost avoidance in maintaining and upgrading registry technology, better client service and increased efficiency and financial outcomes.

"Our members see this as a potentially huge increase in access fees and registration fees," Isenor said.

Concerns about fee increases

He says the government has not made any attempt to consult with the surveyors over the issue.

The surveyors claim outsourced land registries elsewhere in Canada have seen a tripling of fees and reduced access.

Chris MacInnes (highlighted) was hired by an Ontario company that now manages Ontario and Manitoba's land registries. (CBC)
"Potentially the loss of a whole subset of public information from the public hands — that's the real primary concern," he said.

Land registries — first in Ontario and more recently in Manitoba — were outsourced to Toronto-based Teranet Inc.

In August 2014, Teranet hired Stephen McNeil's 2013 campaign manager Chris MacInnes to lobby the Nova Scotia government on "government procurement," "privatisation and outsourcing." The file is still active.

According to the provincial lobbyist registry, lobbying targets include Service Nova Scotia which is handling the registry outsourcing review and the office of Premier Stephen McNeil.

Review to continue through fall

Neither MacInnes — who also sits on the Liberal party of Canada national executive — nor Teranet responded to CBC News inquiries.

Speaking after a provincial cabinet meeting Thursday, Service Nova Scotia Minister Mark Furey downplayed concerns about access to registry data and fees.

"[In] the alternate service delivery model government retains ownership of the data, authority for regulation and legislative changes. Any request on the part of a service provider to amend fees or change fees or change any content of the existing services would require government approval," Furey said.

The review will continue this fall. Furey said no decision has been made.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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